Research, Environmental Justice, EVs Highlighted
President Biden’s opening bid on the 2022 budget makes good on his promise to use a “whole of government” approach to address climate change, calling for an additional $14 billion in “climate change investments.”
Biden’s $1.5 trillion discretionary budget request released Friday is an attempt to reverse a decade of underinvestment from “overly restrictive” budget caps, an administration official, speaking on background, told reporters.
“Despite the growing threat of climate change, we’ve cut funding for climate science and technology at EPA by 27% since FY 2010, adjusted for inflation,” the official said. The discretionary budget supplements the infrastructure initiatives the administration outlined in its American Jobs Plan on March 31. (See Biden Infrastructure Plan Would Boost Clean Energy.)
“The discretionary request is a complementary but separate proposal that lays out the president’s funding recommendations for the annual appropriations process,” the official said. “We want to use every lever at our disposal to address the challenges we face.”
It would increase non-defense discretionary spending by 16% and defense by 1.6%.
The request would boost climate change spending “across nearly every agency to invest in resilience and clean energy, enhance U.S. competitiveness and put America on a path to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050,” the Office of Management and Budget said.
The proposal includes $850 million for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure:
- $250 million to the Department of Transportation for grants for transit agencies to purchase low- and no-emission buses, more than double 2021 funding.
- $300 million for the General Services Administration to electrify its leased fleet of more than 200,000 vehicles, and $300 million for the U.S. Postal Service and more than a dozen other federal agencies for what the request calls “a down payment to support a multiyear transformation of the federal fleet.”
OMB said 40% of climate spending is “targeted toward addressing the disproportionately high cumulative impacts on disadvantaged communities.”
More than $1.4 billion would be allocated for environmental justice, with $936 million for a new Accelerating Environmental and Economic Justice initiative at EPA to reduce pollution, $100 million of which would create a community air quality monitoring and notification program to provide real-time data in the places with the highest exposures to pollution. An additional $30 million would be used to enforce existing laws to protect communities from pollution. It also would increase funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant program. The funding is in addition to funding provided in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, OMB said.
The Department of Justice’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division would receive $5 million to address environmental justice issues.
The proposal includes a $1.2 billion contribution to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to climate change; it would be the first U.S. contribution since 2017.
Jobs, ‘Just Transition’
OMB’s proposal makes repeated references to the jobs it says the spending will create. It includes $2 billion to support energy efficiency and clean electricity standards to reach a carbon-free electric industry by 2035, which the administration said would “put welders, electricians and other skilled labor to work building clean energy projects.”
More than $550 million — triple current funding — would be spent to remediate oil and gas wells and reclaim abandoned mines, which OMB said would create 250,000 jobs. It would also more than double funding for the Economic Development Administration’s Assistance to Coal Communities program.
“This focus could be a sign of stepped-up administration efforts to address the concerns of unions with nexus to fossil energy in the wake of the president’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and suspension of federal mineral leasing on his first day in office,” Kevin Book, of ClearView Energy Partners, wrote in a report to clients.
Adaptation and Conservation
Much spending would be devoted to adaptation to climate change.
The Interior Department would receive a $550 million boost to “accelerate clean energy deployment and expand efforts around climate adaptation and ecosystem resilience” in its land management agencies. “These investments would directly benefit Americans by helping to limit climate-induced disruptions, including for coastal communities, the outdoor recreation economy, and people whose lives and livelihoods are intertwined with DOI-managed lands and resources,” it said.
The U.S. Geological Survey and other bureaus would receive an additional $200 million to provide information about the impacts of climate change and how to implement mitigation, adaptation and resilience efforts. “The funds would help ensure that coastal, fire-prone and other particularly vulnerable communities have accurate and accessible information and tools.”
Biden’s proposed Civilian Climate Corps would receive $200 million for “science-driven conservation” to support the goal of conserving 30% of land and water by 2030 through “voluntary actions and incentives that support the stewardship efforts of farmers, ranchers and other private landowners.”
The Department of Agriculture would receive $1.7 billion for high-priority hazardous fuels and forest resilience projects, an increase of $476 million. “This funding supports the administration’s science-based approach to improve the resilience of forest and rangeland ecosystems to water stress from multiyear drought conditions and to protect watersheds, wildlife habitat and the wildland-urban interface from the negative impacts of uncharacteristically severe wildfire,” OMB said.
Another $340 million would fund Interior’s projects to manage vegetation and reduce the intensity and severity of wildfires.
An additional $1.2 billion is proposed to increase the resilience to wildfires, flooding and drought, including $100 million for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Climate and Health program. The Department of Homeland Security would receive a $540 million increase to incorporate climate impacts into pre-disaster planning.
The Small Business Administration would spend $10 million to help small businesses obtain capital for investments to help them become more resilient to climate change and support the “clean energy economy.”
Department of Energy
The Department of Energy would see a $4.3 billion increase (10.2%) to $46.1 billion, including increases for the Office of Fossil Energy, which would be renamed the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. “This funding would advance carbon reduction and mitigation in sectors and applications that are difficult to decarbonize, including the industrial sector, with technologies and methods such as carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, and direct air capture,” OMB said.
The administration hopes to quadruple government-wide clean energy research over four years, including $8 billion to boost DOE’s funding by at least 27% in advanced nuclear energy, EVs, green hydrogen, and air conditioning and refrigeration.
The administration seeks $1 billion for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate to find “solutions for carbon-pollution-free energy, adaptation and resilience against the climate crisis.”
DOE’s Office of Science would receive $7.4 billion (+$400 million) to support the National Laboratories and research on the changing climate, clean energy technologies and artificial intelligence and computing “to enhance prediction and decision-making across numerous environmental and scientific challenges.”
Environmental Protection Agency
EPA would receive $11.2 billion, up $2 billion (21%), including more than $110 million to restore the agency’s personnel, which lost more than 1,000 staffers during the Trump administration. It includes $48 million in additional funding for the Office of Air and Radiation “to build back staff expertise, analysis and capacity to implement climate change programs through the Clean Air Act.” The office oversees GHG emissions standards for vehicles, power plants, and oil and gas wells.
The agency would spend $1.8 billion to reduce emissions, ensure environmental justice and create jobs, including $100 million in grants for states and tribes to reduce GHG emissions and $30 million to more than double EPA’s climate change research budget. Additional investments are targeted to cut methane and hydrofluorocarbon emissions.
“Although we are generally reluctant to make too much of top-level spending numbers in the absence of agency- and program-level granularity, we regard Biden’s proposed EPA spending hike as particularly significant because the request intends for $110 million to go towards hiring new staff,” ClearView’s Book said. “Recent history suggests to us that Democrats’ single-party control of the House, Senate and White House could markedly improve prospects of bringing this proposal — or at least a substantial hike — to fruition.”
NASA’s earth science programs would receive $2.3 billion (+$250 million) to fund a new generation of satellites to answer climate science questions.
The National Science Foundation would be allocated $1.2 billion for climate and clean energy research (+$500 million), including research on atmospheric composition, water and carbon cycles, modeling climate systems, renewable energy technologies, materials sciences, and social, behavioral and economic research on human responses to climate change.
The proposal was lauded by clean energy groups, with the American Council on Renewable Energy saying the R&D spending “has the potential to accelerate tomorrow’s clean energy innovations.”
The Edison Electric Institute praised the spending to reduce wildfire risks, saying “industry-government partnership is critical” to the effort. It also expressed support for funding to improve cybersecurity, including $500 million for the Technology Modernization Fund, $110 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and a $750 million reserve for federal agency information technology enhancements.
But Taxpayers for Common Sense decried what it called “a supersized increase for the bloated Department of Energy budget” and noted that every cabinet-level department would receive spending boosts over 2021.
If approved, Biden’s DOE budget would represent a $10 billion (30%) increase since FY 2020. “The programs where the administration is directing funding have already been the focus of enormous spending expansion in recent years. Over the five fiscal years from FY 2017 to FY 2021, spending on the DOE Office of Science grew by 30%, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy grew by 37%, and Office of Nuclear Energy grew by a whopping 48%. Adding billions more to the budgets of these offices is a tacit statement that everything they’re currently supporting is worth funding, and that is far from the case,” the group said.
The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said Biden should find cuts to “fully offset” the discretionary spending increases. “Congress, for its part, should extend the expiring discretionary spending caps in order to restore budget discipline for that area of the budget. These caps can complement other efforts to raise revenue, lower health care costs, secure Social Security and reduce wasteful spending,” it said.
Biden received criticism from both progressives and conservatives for his proposed $715 billion budget for the Defense Department, a 1.5% increase. “The already inflated Pentagon budget did nothing to protect us from a global pandemic, an economic recession or the climate crisis,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said. “Increasing that budget now would be a grave mistake.”
“At a time when the U.S. already spends more on the military than the next 12 nations combined, it is time for us to take a serious look at the massive cost over-runs, the waste and fraud that exists at the Pentagon,” Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Republican leaders of the Armed Services, Intelligence, Budget and Appropriations committees said Biden was “sending a terrible signal not only to our adversaries in Beijing and Moscow, but also to our allies and partners” by prioritizing a “liberal wish list” over defense.
Biden will release his full budget later this spring. With Senate Democrats unlikely to secure the 10 GOP votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster — and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) saying he won’t support a weakening of the filibuster — it’s unclear how much of Biden’s spending plans will survive.
“This is the beginning of what we know is a long journey,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday.